Congress MP Rajiv Satav cites child care as joint responsibility

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A private member’s bill proposes that all workers, including those in the unorganised and private sector, will get paternity leave extendable up to three months. The proposal comes within six months of the newly amended Maternity Benefit Act, 2017, which allows expecting women to avail maternity leave benefit upto 26 weeks.

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर: Indian Express.

The said paternity leave proposal will encourage to be fathers to champion the cause of a responsible parent in the early days after a child’s birth. The Paternity Benefit Bill, 2017, which may be considered in the next session of Parliament, pushes for equal ‘parental’ benefits for both the mother and the father. “Child care is the joint responsibility of both parents.

They must devote time to the newborn to ensure its proper well-being,” said Congress MP Rajeev Satav, the backer of the bill. He further stated that the bill would benefit more than 32 crore men in the private and unorganised sector, especially those doing blue collar jobs. At present, the All India and Central Civil Services Rules for Central government employees allow only 15 days of paternity leave.

Various corporate offices also give paternity benefits to their employees, however, baring a few corporates, a paternity leave does not generally extend beyond 7 days. The bill hopes to not just extend the duration of the paternity leave but also extend it to all workers, across sectors.

“The maximum period for which any man with less than two surviving children shall be entitled to paternity benefit shall be fifteen days of which more than seven days shall precede the date of expected delivery”.

“Provided that paternity benefit shall be availed up to three months from the date of delivery of child,’ it states. The bill is highly progressive and also talks about providing similar benefits to adoptive fathers as well as those who have had a child through surrogacy.

“The Central Government shall formulate a scheme to be known as the parental benefit scheme for providing paternity benefit to every man,” it says. The government, it adds, should constitute a Parental Benefit Scheme Fund in which all employees, employers and the Central government shall contribute.

Quoting a report of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Satav said fathers who take leave, especially those taking two weeks or more immediately after the birth of a child, are more likely to be involved with their young children.

This can have positive effects for gender equality in the home and at work and may indicate shifts in relationships and perceptions of parenting roles and prevailing stereotypes, he added. The bill is based on the lines of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Earlier this year, the Lok Sabha passed an amendment increasing maternity leave for working women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for their first two children. During discussions on the Maternity Benefit Bill, MPs from across party lines had said they were lacuna in the bill as there was no provision for paternity leave in the legislation.

In August 2016, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had quoted “Paternity leave will be just a holiday for men”. With regards to the paternity bill backed by MP Satav, the WCD Minister said there could be “more sophisticated” legislation in the future to address the concerns of fathers-to-be.

If the bill is passed, this would lay a foundation of equal responsibility for both parents who will be able to contribute to parenthood in their own ways from the very beginning. Rajeev Satav, 42, is a young Member of Parliament (INC) from Hingoli in Maharashtra.

He defeated Subhash Wankhede, Shiv Sena MP and a three time MLA. He is also the Secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC).

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